Taking a page from Sara’s post asking authors of children’s books to stop underestimating their audience…Dear writers of political suspense novels: please stop slighting women. These novels have a wider audience than the dudes they’re targeted to. Spies, politics, and suspense are subjects a lot of women love as well. And with a generation of pretty sharp young women entering the work force and reading adult fiction, you may be pushing this audience away, as well as portraying women in a subservient light with men.
How does this relate to The Director? We’ll get to that. In the meantime, I’ll start with how much I did enjoy this cyber-espionage thriller. I tend to gravitate to rather heavy subjects and need to remind myself to pick up some intellectual candy every once in a while. This fit the bill perfectly. David Ignatius is a well-respected, experienced journalist with the Washington Post. He’s written several political thrillers; one made into the film, Body of Lies. He’s a skilled writer and digs deep into his subjects.
The Director takes on the thorny and very prevalent subject of cybersecurity and highly proficient hackers. The story begins with a new CIA Director, Graham Weber. Weber is an anomaly in the intelligence community - an outsider from the business world and outspoken about government abiding by its laws. His idealist philosophy immediately comes into conflict with safeguarding the nation his very first day on the job. Weber struggles with maintaining his own beliefs and morals, how far to bend them for the good of the country, and staying alive. But he has a mole within the CIA, and he has to catch him red-handed. Who does he trust in the den of spies, hackers, and politicians? As the story unfolds, we’re taken to secret hideouts, shell companies, embassies, safe houses, and the White House.
All of this equates to a well-constructed plot and a very fun read. Here’s where my issue is, which is not exclusive to Ignatius (see my post on Leaving Berlin). The leading female character, Dr. Ariel Weiss, is beautiful, sexy, and wicked smart. She’s a cyber expert with the CIA and knows how to work the system. She essentially has to play double agent, spying within her own agency, while balancing the politics and secrets amongst the hackers, the CIA Director, and Director of National Intelligence. But for all her education and training as a secret agent, she’s amazingly vulnerable. And quite frankly, some of the scenes including Weiss are wholly ridiculous. Perhaps, geared to a male audience, Ignatius believes this is what they want to read. Or perhaps he’s simply playing into the male fantasy of women who are smart and sexy, yet still cannot fully succeed without a man’s helping hand. Well, maybe it’s still true.
Despite this annoyance, I do recommend The Director. It’s incredibly interesting to read about international cyber warfare, along with our own country’s political cover. Ignatius bases his subjects on a certain amount of fact. Which leaves the reader to wonder how much of it is reality. Regardless, engage your suspension of disbelieve, and give it a shot.
Publisher: W.W. Norton
Vickie’s rating: 3 stars